Shelf Centered

A blog about books & culture from the librarians who love them

What We're Reading - February 24

What were reading WednesdayHello, it's the last Wednesday in February, the weather is warming up, but time inside reading is still at an all-time high. Here's what Wilmette Public Library staff has been reading while the weather has been grim. You can search for these titles and put them on hold through our online catalog or you can look for an ebook or e-audiobook on the Digital Library of Illinois

hiddenlifeTitle: The Hidden Life of Trees
Author: Peter Wohlleben
Reader: Sheri R., Youth Services Librarian

This New York Times Bestseller restored in me a sense of wonder about the world. I’ve spent years admiring trees, camping under them, trimming them, having them removed due to illness. But I never knew that trees communicate, that they live in families, and that they take care of each other, feeding one another and helping them through rough times. Now, when I take a walk, I find inspiration as close as the parkway. This is an amazing piece of literature!


sanityofsatireTitle: The Sanity of Satire: Surviving Politics One Joke at a Time
Author: Al Gini and Abraham Singer
Reader: Suzanne A., Adult Services Librarian

Al Gini has published The Sanity of Satire. It covers everyone who has used humor from Aristotle to Jerry Seinfeld. It is very funny and contains many anecdotes. Gini is a Loyola professor who hosted an NPR program for years.  The publisher says: "In a poignant, pithy, but not ponderous manner, Al Gini and Abraham Singer delve into the history of satire to rejoice in its triumphs and watch its development from ancient graffiti to the latest late-night TV talk show."


thisishappinessTitle: This is Happiness
Author: Niall Williams
Reader: Jenny K., Adult Services Librarian

I am currently reading This is Happiness by Irish author, Niall Williams. It’s the story about a young man coming of age, a stranger new in town, and the rich, rural culture of the small community of Faha Ireland on the verge of change. Williams’ lyrical writing, full of Irish lore charms the reader and keeps the pages turning. I highly recommend this novel.


missbensonTitle: Miss Benson's Beetle
Author: Rachel Joyce
Reader: Nancy W., Adult Services Librarian

Recounts the search for the fabled New Caledonian golden beetle conducted improbably and wonderfully by the most mis-matched pair imaginable.  This is a wonderful story of a friendship formed as a result of challenging outward circumstances that spur the pair to tackle seemingly impossible challenges.  "A gem of a book."


riseandfallTitle: The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh
Author: Candace Fleming
Reader: Alice J., Youth Services Librarian

I'm in the middle of Candace Fleming's The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh which just won the Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award, awarded by the Young Adult Library Services Association of the American Library Association. “Candace Fleming's riveting biography takes readers deep inside Lindbergh's life and character, exploring the consequences of his actions and beliefs, and alluding to contemporary politics,” said YALSA Nonfiction Award Chair Adrienne Gillespie.

What We're Reading - February 3

JohnA bookHello, it's Wednesday and time for another post about what Wilmette Public Library staff has been reading. You can search for these titles and put them on hold through our online catalog or you can look for an ebook or e-audiobook on the Digital Library of Illinois


nameoftheroseTitle: The Name of the Rose
Author: Umberto Eco
Reader: John A., Adult Services Librarian

I just started it, but it centers around a heresy investigation and a succeeding series of murders plaguing a wealthy Italian abbey in the 14th century. I’ve never read any of Eco’s books before, so thought I’d give this a try...


howtostoptimeTitle: How to Stop Time
Author: Matt Haig
Reader: Sheri R., Youth Services Librarian

This novel follows the life of Tom Hazard, a man with anageria, which causes him to age exceedingly slowly. Tom will probably live to the age of 900, and that’s not always a blessing. Wise and hilarious insights emerge from his loves, losses, and experience of history, not as a straight line, but an arc in which we “mayflies” repeat the same mistakes, generation after generation—and sometimes learn from them.


fieldofbloodTitle:  The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to the Civil War
Author: Joanne B. Freeman
Audiobook Narrator: Read by the author
Reader: Jessica T., Cataloging Librarian

I recently started listening to The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to the Civil War, on Hoopla. The author, Joanne B. Freeman, a history professor at Yale, uses an eleven volume diary written from 1828-1870 by Benjamin Brown French to describe the tone, happenings, and violence of the Congress in pre-Civil War America.


lion of marsTitle: Lion of Mars
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Reader: Jennifer L., Youth Services Librarian

This children's book is about a kid named Bell who spent all of his life in Mars. He is so distanced from earth and curious about all the secrets kept from him, the truth about why him and other kids can't contact anyone in the US colony. He has to figure things out to save his family.


snowTitle: Snow
Author: John Banville
Reader: Joan B., Adult Services Librarian

This is a well written detective novel set in Ireland. "Detective Inspector St. John Strafford has been summoned to County Wexford to investigate when a parish priest is found dead in Ballyglass House, the family seat of the aristocratic, secretive Osborne family. The Catholic Church rules Ireland with an iron fist, and Strafford--a Protestant--faces obstruction at every turn. There is a culture of silence in this tight-knit community, and Stafford learns the Osbornes are not at all what they seem" - adapted from the book jacket

Teen Take & Makes: Create at Home

Teen Make Take Logo Update 01 01Each month, we create a fantabulous DIY kit for teens to do at home, complete with most materials needed and a instruction booklet. While our supplies are limited, the ideas behind each project is not. If you didn't get a kit, you can still participate. Find the instructions for our last two kits here.   


IMG 2011December Kit
Warm Up: Hot Chocolate Spoons

This kit included instructions and a list of materials for creating two delicious hot chocolate spoons out of ingredients like chocolate chips, marshmallows, and milk. This kit used silicone cupcake liners but you can substitute other molds or even ice cube trays and, of course, you can double the recipe to make more and add more or less milk to taste. Click here to download a PDF of this kit.

IMG 2195January Kit
De-Stress: Bath Bombs

This kit included instructions and a list of materials for creating two lavender-scented bath bombs out of ingredients like citric acid, baking soda, and epsom salts. This kit used lavender essential oil and olive oil but you can substitute other scents or other oils, such as coconut oil, and even add dried flowers. Click here to download a PDF of this kit.

What We're Reading

Hello, it's Wednesday and time for another post about what Wilmette Public Library staff has been reading. You can search for these titles and put them on hold through our online catalog or you can look for an ebook or e-audiobook on the Digital Library of Illinois

endofoctoberTitle: End of October
Author: Lawrence Wright
Reader: Jill M., Adult Services Manager

 "At an internment camp in Indonesia, within one week, forty-seven people are pronounced dead with acute hemorrhagic fever. When the microbiologist and epidemiologist Henry Parsons travels there on behalf of the World Health Organization to investigate, what he finds will soon have staggering repercussions across the globe. Matilda Nachinsky, deputy director of U. S. Homeland Security, scrambles to mount a response to what may be an act of biowarfare already-fraying global relations begin to snap, one by one, in the face of a pandemic. Henry's wife Jill and their children face diminishing odds of survival in Atlanta and the disease slashes across the United States, dismantling institutions and decimating the population." - description provided by publisher


sacredgroundTitle: Sacred Ground: The Chicago Streets of Timuel Black
Author: Timuel Black
Reader: Sheri R., Youth Services Librarian

This memoir is a vivid and inspiring look at Chicago's place in the great Migration and the Civil Rights movement. It opens in 1919, with the Chicago race riot that summer when Black's family moved from Alabama to Chicago, through his time stationed in Europe in WWII, and recounts his meetings with many legendary figures as an educator, author, and activist. Timuel Black is an acclaimed historian, activist, and storyteller. NewCity Lit says that Sacred Ground is "a must-read for any citizen of Chicago who wants to understand the racial and political dynamics of our city."


talkinggladwellTitle: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Reader: Ted R., Adult Services Librarian

In this book, popular host of the podcast Revisionist History and author Gladwell explores how people interact with strangers and why these exchanges often go wrong, offering strategic tips for more accurate and productive interactions. Ted says: "Gladwell's books are always interesting!" In Gladwell's 2019 interview with Goodreads contributor Kerry Shaw, Gladwell said that the takeaway he hopes people get from this books is "[t]o be more forgiving of those who are deceived. To understand that being hoodwinked is a function not of what you've done wrong but what you've done right—it's never a crime to trust in someone else."


mysterychristieTitle: The Mystery of Mrs. Christie
Author: Marie Benedict
Reader: Alice J., Youth Services Librarian

This book deals with the life of author Agatha Christie and the mysterious 10 days she disappeared. No one knew where she was and her husband was considered a prime suspect. I've enjoyed her other books: The Other Mrs. Einstein, The Smartest Woman in the Room, Carnegie's Maid and Lady Clementine. Benedict does extensive research on her characters and I've learned a lot from her books.


reverieTitle: Reverie
Author: Ryan La Sala
Reader: Krista H., Teen Librarian

I picked up this book because I follow the author's hilariously goofy and yet sincere Twitter feed and I thought, "If he's this funny and strange on Twitter, what must a book by him be like?" Ryan La Sala's debut novel is described by the publisher as a cross between the movie Inception and the book/TV show The Magicians, and while simplified, that's an excellent description to get people interested. It's an urban fantasy that takes place in the real world and is perfect for any queer teenagers (or adults) who know the feeling of needing to escape from the real world for a time into dreams of a better life; only, in this book, it turns out those dreams can be dangerous too. While recovering from an attack that leaves him without his memory, gay teenager Kane Montgomery stumbles into a world where dreams known as reveries take on a life of their own, and it is up to Kane and a few unlikely allies to stop them before they spillover into the waking world. 

Family History at Home

by EvaAnne Johnson, Adult Services Librarian
 Old photographs on a table
Winter is here, and the need to stay safe at home continues, so these winter months are a great time to explore and preserve your family history! Here are some things that you can do from home right now!
Get started with your family history: If you haven't ever started putting together your family tree, now is a great time to start! Use a blank, basic family tree form to start recording all the information that you know about yourself, your parents, and your grandparents, and write down information about extended family. (Find some basic blank forms and charts here: Before you start searching online for your ancestors, you'll always need to gather as much information that you can from your own sources at home, such as your own memory, baby books or family Bibles, certificates and documents, and talking with other relatives. Don’t know where to start? Reserve a book such as, Genealogy for Dummies or Beginners guide to genealogy, from the library or schedule a one-on-one session with a genealogy librarian.

Interview other relatives and record their stories: Use this time at home to connect virtually or over the phone with older relatives, cousins, and extended family. Ask them about their lives and stories from your family. Take notes or record the interview (with their permission) to preserve their stories for later. Don't forget that we are living through history! Ask them about their experience during the Covid-19 pandemic, and don't forget to record your experience, too. 

Organize family photographs and documents: Now is also a good time to sort through those old family photos and documents. Organize them and make sure they are stored in containers that will help preserve them. While you're organizing your photos, you may also think about getting them scanned, so you can make extra copies and share the old photos with other family members!

Record family heirlooms: If you have any important family heirlooms, you may also want to take this opportunity to take photos of those heirlooms and write down important information about each item, such as what the item is, who it originally belonged to, how you acquired it, and why it's important. 
Online genealogy research from home: Your research doesn't have to stop just because the library is closed! On the library's Online Resources page (, you'll find links to databases and resources that will help you with your genealogy research. Free websites from the library that will help support your genealogy research include:
  • Ancestry Library Edition (at-home access with your library card extended through March 31, 2021)
  • Heritage Quest Online (at-home access with your library card)
  • (at-home access with your library card)
  • Historical Chicago Tribune (at-home access with your library card)
  • Wilmette Local History & Genealogy Resources
  • Wilmette Local Newspapers 
Other free websites to use from home include:
Check out genealogy books and magazines: Don't forget that you can place a hold on genealogy magazines and books, and you can pick them up via Parking Lot Pickup! Check out recent issues of Family Tree MagazineInternet Genealogy magazine, Illinois Heritage magazine, The Quarterly: the journal of the Illinois State Genealogical Society, and more! New additions to our genealogy book selections include Unofficial guide to, The Family Tree guide to DNA testing and genetic genealogy, and How to find your family history in U.S. church records. Search for these titles and more in our online catalog
Improve your research with ebooks and streaming videos: Get quick access to genealogy reference books at home! Hoopla has a good variety of genealogy reference e-books, including The Family Tree ToolkitTracing your Scottish AncestorsHow our Ancestors Died, and Maps for Family and Local History. Get inspiration through episodes of Finding Your Roots, available for checkout on DVD at the library, or streaming through Kanopy with your library card. Teach yourself the basics of genealogy research through episodes of Discovering Your Roots: An Introduction to Genealogy from Great Courses, also available to stream as video on Kanopy or as an audiobook on Hoopla. 
Sign up for our genealogy newsletter: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to start getting our new quarterly genealogy newsletter! Be the first to know about upcoming genealogy programs and get tips on genealogy research.  
Get one-on-one help from a librarian: Have you gotten stuck on your genealogy research? Are you unsure of where to start with your family tree? Do you have questions about our genealogy databases or resources? Schedule a virtual one-on-one appointment with our genealogy librarian for research help. Request a one-hour Zoom appointment here:


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